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Garden Reflections 2008

By Debbie Nowicki


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Now that the gardens are put to rest for the season, it is time to reflect on all that has taken place while it is still fresh in my mind.  Keeping a blog, an online journal, is a definite plus and will be a key factor in planning for next year.  This year has been a first in many areas for me.  It is the first year I attempted to garden down South, first year I grew such a vast amount of flowers, first year I had so many dogs (4) and the first year I kept a blog!

A rare quiet moment for two of our dogs

Frankie the dog

I made some grand discoveries while experimenting with the gardens – I have two up North where I spent most of my time and one down South along with flower gardens in various areas.  The challenge down South was planting items that would require minimal care.  I am hopeful the coneflower, yarrow, lavender, roses, blueberries and asparagus will greet me next spring. 

The luffa did flourish and is now drying on racks until the time I can peel the outer skin to reveal the sponge inside.  I know they would have grown much heartier if I were there to water them on a regular basis.  The months of July and August seem to be very, very dry and hot!  I realized the frost dates both North and South are right around the same time, only a 5 day difference this year.  I initially thought I had a longer growing season down South but that isn’t the case.   The winters are milder and that is the major difference weather-wise.  Fall is simply gorgeous!

Fall color 2008

As I observed the daily activity in the gardens, I discovered so many new and different insects, some regulars that I have seen before and quite a few newbies that I enjoyed watching. 

Praying mantis close-up

The praying mantis down South kept me glued to his every move as he roamed the Guardian Marigold flowers looking for dinner. 

Praying mantis on marigolds

I found the tomato hornworm that dines on my tomato plants up North simply LOVES hot peppers down South. They were eating the alma paprika and cayenne peppers like crazy!

Hornworm alma

I was informed that the hornworm makes great fishing bait! 

I had some good results with Companion Gardening this year. The marigold I planted all over is said to repel insects due to its powerful smell which confuses them – basil is said to have the same affect. Borage attracts bees and the flower is edible.

Bee on borage

I did lose my squash plants to the wicked squash beetle (pictured) and the cucumber beetles were around in full force.

Squash bugs

I planted buckwheat along with the corn and didn’t have any insect problems, the tansy flourished and attracted buzzing beneficial bugs. The beets did great and so did the early crops of peas and spinach. 

Peas in their pods

I had a successful replanting of spinach in the fall from seeds I saved in spring and have many more seeds for next year.  Both varieties of cucumbers were non-stop producers … pearl cucumber and a slicing type. The tigger melon was an interesting first and not as sweet as I had expected. I grew several different types of tomato, which I have been doing each year. This year Illini Star, Rio Roma, Aunt Ruby German Green along with my trusted Amish Paste, which is excellent for canning.

Canned tomatoes

We grew 8 acres of soybeans but really didn’t have any part in the growing or harvest. This was something that happened before we bought our land and we let the farmer continue. 

Soybeans

Funny thing is he asked us a few weeks ago if we wanted to sell or sit on them. We let him decide since we had no clue! I think we are sitting on them until the price goes up. I can’t wait until we have the opportunity to go to an auction with this farmer or visit his hog farm – he knows SO much!

I did save many seeds this year and we have an area in mind we asked the farmer to till up so I can plant. It’s quite a large chunk of land and will definitely require a lot more of my time and attention. The gardens up North may be devoted to flowers and the canning tomatoes next year with more experimenting taking place down South. We have finally figured out where to build a greenhouse, not sure when that will happen, and the house for the chickens and guineas. I see many more “firsts” in the future and can’t wait to experience them all!